The best laptops for photo editing in 2022
Trying to find the best laptops for photo editing in 2022 can get confusing if you’re not sure what to look for, but luckily we’re here to help. While running applications like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom were once reserved for desktop computers with powerful components, this is no longer the case, as laptops have been developed to run demanding software, while retaining a slim, lightweight design.
As a result, most have the latest processors, as well as plenty of RAM, high resolution screens and a wide gamut support for accurate colours, and even factory calibration to ensure image quality is as good as possible. All of these can be pretty demanding, so looking for something with a long battery life will also mean you can keep working on the go, away from a power outlet.
While not essential, a discrete graphics card can also make a big difference. Some photo editing suites, especially from Adobe, make use of AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning with some of their tools to help reduce repetitive tasks and add more impressive and realistic effects. Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics cards especially are well known for having this feature, as well as its Nvidia Studio drivers which make the most out of the GPU when using creative applications.
If you’re working with RAW images, then you’re going to need a lot of space to save them, so a large capacity of storage space is also a bonus if you don’t have access to an external hard drive or similar storage. Almost all modern laptops feature SSD storage, rather than traditional hard drives, and this offers much faster performance, while also being more robust when being moved around – which is essential for laptops.
So, read on for our pick of the best photo editing laptops available today, and if you’re after something smaller, see our pick of the best tablets for photo and video editing. Once you’ve made your choice, then you might want to pick up some tools to help you on your photo editing journey – see our best photo editing software or best photo apps for some options.
The best laptops for photo editing available now
The MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) is hands down one of the best laptops for photographers and editors you can buy right now, especially if you opt for the beefier M1 Pro version of Apple’s M1 line of processors.
This will ensure that macOS runs incredibly smoothly, and any photo editing app launches immediately and loads up your images with ease. We would recommend sticking with the original M1 or M1 Pro version of the processor, rather than the more powerful M1 Max model as the additional expense won’t net you many benefits and the Pro version of the processor is more than capable enough of running enough apps to knock your socks off.
That 16.2-inch screen is packed with new tech, such as a mini LED screen and P3 wide colour support, along with a higher 3456 x 2234 pixel ratio, which ensures your photos look incredible. Outside of OLED displays created with creative professionals in mind, this is one of the best screens you’ll find on a laptop right now. The larger size also means working on your photos in editing apps such as Photoshop is much more comfortable than on smaller laptops.
Apple thankfully also reintroduced most of the ports that were removed from the previous MacBook Pro model, including HDMI and a memory card slot, so you can plug in external monitors, or copy photos from a camera, without needing an adaptor. It also boasts incredible battery life, lasting almost 20 hours on a single charge, which means this is a laptop you can use out in the field without worrying about having to find a power supply.
Also read: MacBook Pro 16-inch review
The MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) may be more what you need if all of the benefits of the M1 Pro appeal to you, but you need something a little smaller. Like the 16-inch model above, it offers an amazing mini-LED screen that supports 1,600 nits of peak brightness and the P3 wide colour gamut. This is cheating a little as it’s essentially the same as the 16-inch MacBook Pro, but with a smaller screen and more compact design, but there are certain component restrictions that apply to each size.
The smaller 14-inch model doesn’t lose out on anything that would impact its photo-editing capabilities though, so this makes it the best laptops for photographers who are looking for a device they can easily carry around, while still offering plenty of power for editing photos. It’s powered by the same M1 Pro or M1 Max Apple chips found in the 16-inch model, so it offers a similar level of performance to the bigger laptop.
Although it has a smaller screen, it remains incredibly high resolution, so the 14-inch MacBook Pro offers the same pixel density as the 16-inch model. This means that you’re not sacrificing image quality if you want to go for the smaller (and slightly cheaper) MacBook Pro.
The smaller size also doesn’t mean it misses out on the new design elements Apple added to the 16-inch model, as it comes with the same amount of ports, including an SD card slot, an HDMI port, and three Thunderbolt 4 ports.
Also read: MacBook Pro 14-inch review
The Dell XPS 15 (2021) is one of the best laptops on the market for just about everybody, let alone photographers. If you don’t want a Mac, and can’t get to grips with macOS, then this is the laptop for you as it runs either Windows 10 or Windows 11 (depending on if you choose to use the free upgrade), either of which will grant you access to all the best photo editing applications around.
What’s more, Dell has packed the XPS 15 with some of the most powerful mobile components you’ll find in any laptop right now, so opening, editing and saving photos is incredibly quick and smooth.
All this power is packed into a stylish body that’s thin and light – making it ideal for photographers who are often working out and about. You can get an OLED InfinityEdge display for crisp blacks and vivid colours, 11th-generation Intel processors and the latest Nvidia RTX 3050 or 3050 Ti graphics cards, though Intel UHD is also an option for anyone looking to save some cash. While it’s not a gaming laptop by any means, the Nvidia RTX graphics card is powerful enough to run older and less demanding titles, so you could even crack out a round of Fortnite or two on your lunch break.
It’s backed up by a comfortable keyboard and excellent speakers, plus Dell’s famous build quality and support. It’s expensive, but worth it if you can afford to get one.
The Gigabyte Aero 17 (2021) is one of the most powerful laptops for photo editing you’ll find at the moment, combining a 10th generation Intel i9 processor with 8-cores, along with the Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics card, which is one of the most powerful GPUs you’ll find in a laptop right now.
Where the Dell XPS 15 shines as a professional, portable workstation, the Aero 17 was created with creatives in mind to blast through demanding work with those powerful components, such as 3D sculpting, animation and both photo and video editing.
What really makes it stand out for photo editing, however, is the fact that it offers a stunning 4K HDR screen, with 100% Adobe RGB coverage, and which is Pantone-certified as well. This ensures that any photo you edit on this laptop is going to look its very best, and keeps the colours as accurate as possible.
It also packs loads of ports, so you should be able to plug in your memory cards and any peripherals without having to worry about using adaptors. It may be overkill for many people, but if you want cutting edge performance, this is the laptop to get.
See our Gigabyte Aero 17 review for more information.
The MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) isn’t as powerful as other additions to the MacBook Pro family, but it’s still a very capable laptop for photo editing, especially if you were a fan of some MacBook features that Apple has since removed in the updated design such as the controversial touchbar.
The M1 chip performs brilliantly, especially when it came to running photo editing apps like Photoshop. Best of all, the MacBook Pro 13-inch now one of the longest battery lives in a MacBook. This thing is seriously impressive when it comes to battery, and means you can work on it all day editing photos, and you won’t need to plug it in.
As is usual with MacBooks, it also has a gorgeous Retina screen that will make your photographs look fantastic while offering a sleek and stylish design that Apple is renowned for. The Touch Bar, a slim touch display that runs along the top of the keyboard, is a great feature for photographers, as it displays context-sensitive buttons and shortcuts that change depending on the app you’re using, and it works with key photo editing software like Photoshop. It can really make a big difference to your workflow. Read more with our MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 review.
While the Retina screen of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is very good, it can’t compete with the mini LED screens in the new MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) and MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021), which offer much higher resolutions and brighter, more vivid colours.
However, the 13-inch MacBook Pro remains a very good laptop, and it’s more affordable than the two most recent models, making this a more viable purchase for many people and a brilliant addition to our list of the best laptops for photo editing.
The Dell XPS 17 (2021) is another ideal Windows 10 alternative to Apple’s MacBooks for photographers looking for a large-screen laptop for photo editing. You’re getting the high standard of build quality we’ve come to expect from Dell over the years, with a 17-inch display, 16:10 aspect ratio screen that’s ideal for photographers, as it offers more vertical space than standard 16:9 widescreen displays, and it can be configured with a 4K Ultra HD+ resolution of 3,840 x 2,400.
Despite this being larger than the 15-inch model listed higher on this ranking, it’s still well-sized enough to fit into most standard backpacks, and its elegant and professional design will suit any office or studio environment.
Perhaps most importantly, the screen supports 100% Adobe RGB and 94% DCI-P3 colour gamuts, which means this offers accurate colours as well, and that makes it an excellent choice for professional photographers who want to edit their photos in the best possible conditions. If Windows 10 doesn’t suit your needs, the Dell XPS 17 is also eligible for the free Windows 11 update so you can use the very latest Microsoft operating system without making any other adjustments to your hardware.
It’s also packed with some of the best mobile components out there, and can even be fitted with a powerful graphics card as well. Plus, for a 17-inch laptop, as well as being impressively thin and light to boot.
The ConceptD 7 from Acer is a prime example of why the brand is one of the best at creative laptop workstations specifically with creative professionals in kind, providing plenty of ports, top-of-the-line specifications and a gorgeous design that can rival any MacBook.
Acer may be better known for making gaming laptops, but with the ConceptD 7, it’s used its experience of building thin, light and powerful laptops to build a fantastic entry to our best laptops for photo editing list.
This is a laptop packed to the brim with powerful components which can easily run even the most demanding photo editing tools, and it’s also got a gorgeous 4K IPS display that is Pantone-validated. This means straight out of the box, this screen will show your photos as they are meant to be seen with little to no need to calibrate it yourself.
The body is smart and professional and has a great selection of ports, allowing you to use as many peripherals of your choice as needed, such as a graphics drawing tablets. It’s also easily portable, so you can carry it around with you if you spend a lot of time travelling and photo editing on the road.
It’s expensive, but the level of performance this laptop offers means it’s well worth the high price tag.
The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is yet another Apple laptop that’s excellent at Photoshop thanks to its powerful Apple-designed M1 chip – based on the same tech as the one powering the more expensive MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020).
This means it’s the first time ever the more affordable MacBook Air can go toe-to-toe with the 13-inch MacBook Pro when it comes to Photoshop performance. You’ll be able to open and edit high-resolution photos and projects, and swap between apps, with ease, and its fanless design also means that it is pretty much completely silent when in use.
As with previous MacBook Airs, it features a gorgeous thin and light design that makes it easy to carry around with you, and the M1 packs enough of a punch that you won’t feel that moving to a more powerful MacBook model is required for even professional-quality photo editing. Simply put, this is the ideal laptop for most people, let alone photographers, thanks to its relatively affordable price tag (when compared to other MacBooks), allowing you to work on projects and edit images while streaming videos or listing to music on other applications and tabs.
Also, for the first time in a MacBook Air, the latest model supports the P3 colour gamut, which means the screen can display accurate colours, a consideration that is incredibly important for photographers using Photoshop.
Also read: MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review
The Surface Laptop 4 is a great laptop for photo editing, as well as one of the best devices Microsoft has ever made. Consider this as Microsoft’s own rival to the MacBook Air, complete with a gorgeous slimline design, a top-quality display and one of the nicest keyboards you’ll ever use on a laptop device.
On top of that stunning design, it has plenty of power under the hood, and its large, high-resolution PixelSense touchscreen is perfect for editing photos on, ensuring your shots look their very best. There aren’t a lot of ports, but you can get a dongle if required for additional peripherals, and you’re getting at least a single USB-C and USB-A, which should be enough for a graphic drawing tablet should you need to hook one up.
Microsoft has included the latest mobile tech from both Intel and AMD, so Windows 10, and any photo editing apps you want to use, run brilliantly. The super-fast storage allows you to move large amounts of photos to and from this laptop as well.
Best of all, it has one of the longest battery lives we’ve seen in a laptop, which allows you to work out and about without worrying about being plugged into a wall socket.
If you’ve been looking at the premium prices for most of this list with dismay, the Acer Swift 3 is your go-to pick of the best laptops for photo editing. Despite being highly budget-friendly, this affordable laptop workstation is more than capable of running demanding photo editing applications like Adobe Photoshop.
It’s around half the price of the MacBook Pro – but it features a nice design that feels robust. Given many of the options we’ve shown you are also heavy-hitters regarding their components, you may think that what the Acer Swift 3 is offering is fairly weak by comparison. Don’t be fooled though, as it comes with a quad-core Intel processor and 8GB of RAM, which is plenty for most photo editing apps to run efficiently.
Its 14-inch display is surprisingly good, with IPS technology that lets it really show off bright and vivid colours, and it boasts a full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution. The keyboard is great to work on too, making this a fantastic choice for anyone who wants the power to do serious photography work, without breaking the bank which makes it ideal for students or hobbyists looking to get started in photography editing on a tight budget.
Best laptops for photo editing: What to consider
The best photo editing laptops will offer plenty of speedy storage. Ideally an SSD (Solid State Drive) as this is much faster than the older HDD (Hard Disk Drive), with 512GB or 1TB (or higher) storage. This gives you fast data transfer rates (handy for moving all your photos to and from one of the best external hard drives or camera memory card), while also offering plenty of space to hold those large files.
Getting a decent laptop for photo editing doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive thing out there. As you’ll realise, basic photo editing like cropping, resizing and applying straightforward filters, can be performed on most devices. But we’ve prioritised graphically-capable laptops in this list because if you’re looking for a photo-editing laptop specifically it’s likely you’ll want to do at least some advanced stuff.
As we mentioned earlier, we’ve prioritised graphical power (from AMD and Nvidia) above other elements but a pixel-perfect screen is also a must. If possible, invest in a colorimeter (or borrow one) to calibrate your display for the best-possible colour accuracy.
Many laptops now have IPS or even OLED displays so you get brighter, bolder images, wider viewing angles and better colour reproduction. And resolutions are now higher than ever with Full HD now a minimum but even higher resolutions are standard on many. 4K is also a more regular option though it is still expensive.
Some laptops aimed at photographers have screens that support AdobeRGB and sRGB colour spaces, so it’s worth looking out for those.
What laptop specs do I need for photo editing?
In specs, you should consider 8GB of RAM a minimum for a laptop for photo editing, likewise a modern Intel Core i5 processor (or AMD Ryzen 5). These processors come with decent integrated graphics which will be more than enough for photo editing.
And your SSD drive should be 256GB as a minimum, too. Bigger is better if you’ll be storing a lot of photos on the device, but you may be using cloud storage of course.
We recommend 1080p displays, as they’ll allow you to see more of your photos, but if your budget can stretch to it, a laptop with a 4K screen may be worth investing in.